As the DREAM Act continues to gather momentum during lame-duck, some conservative Congressional members are scrambling to brand the legislation as “amnesty” in an attempt to scare the American public. Among the myths is the idea that the DREAM Act’s passage would somehow cheat native born students out of opportunities. This tired effort to pit immigrants against native born is not only destructive, but has no basis in fact. It also ignores the economic benefits that come from legalizing a group of talented, hard working individuals who want nothing more than to contribute to America and repay the country for the opportunities they’ve been given. It’s hard to imagine, given the economic data and bipartisan support, how these hardliners can justify twisting the DREAM Act into a rhetorical ball of fear.
The Immigration Policy Center recently published a fact sheet rebutting these myths. The most egregious of them is the allegation that the DREAM Act “rewards” undocumented youth—who, by the way, had no choice in coming to the United States. Other myths include:
Myth: The DREAM Act will spur more illegal immigration because it rewards undocumented youth. Fact: Programs like the DREAM Act, which have clear cut-off dates, offer no incentives for more illegal immigration. In order to qualify for the DREAM Act, a student must have entered the United States before the age of 16 and have lived in the U.S. for at least five years before the date of enactment. Economic conditions have far more impact on illegal immigration than specific pieces of legislation.
Myth: The DREAM Act uses taxpayer dollars for scholarships and grants to undocumented students. Fact: The DREAM Act states that undocumented youth adjusting to lawful permanent resident status are only eligible for federal student loans (which must be paid back), and federal work-study programs, where they must work for any benefit they receive. They are not eligible for federal grants, such as Pell Grants.
Myth: The DREAM Act legalizes criminals and gang members and lets people who have already been ordered deported avoid the law. Fact: Immigrants convicted of serious crimes are ineligible for DREAM Act status; the DREAM Act excludes from eligibility most immigrants applying for benefits who have been under an order of deportation. Specifically, the DREAM Act states that an applicant may not have already been ordered deported unless they received the order before they were 16 years old.
Clearly, these myths are being spun in an effort to scare Americans into opposing this piece of humanitarian legislation as well as a larger immigration overhaul in the future. The truth is that the DREAM Act has long been supported by both Republicans and Democrats alike—not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it makes good economic sense for all Americans.
Report after report indicates that providing a legal status for young people who have a proven record of success in the United States would be a boon to the economy and the U.S. workforce. University presidents and educational associations, as well as military recruiters, business and religious leaders have added their voice to those calling for passage of the bill. The facts show that the DREAM Act is good for not only the students it would legalize, but also for our military, colleges, businesses, and the U.S. economy.
The Economist says it best in a recent blog post:
The DREAM Act sends the message that although American immigration law in effect tries to make water run uphill, we are not monsters. It says that we will not hobble the prospects of young people raised and schooled in America just because we were so perverse to demand that their parents wait in a line before a door that never opens. It signals that we were once a nation of immigrants, and even if we have become too fearful and small to properly honour that noble legacy, America in some small way remains a land of opportunity.
Photo by ShellyS.